Proponents of the problem of animal suffering state that the great amount of animal death and suffering found in Earth’s natural history provides evidence against the truth of theism. In particular, philosophers such as Paul Draper have argued that regardless of the antecedent probability of theism and naturalism, animal suffering provides positive evidence for the truth of naturalism over theism. While theists have attempted to provide answers to the problem of animal suffering, almost none have argued that animal suffering and (...) death can be seen as positive evidence for theism. This essay will discuss several arguments from the writings of Thomas Aquinas that can be used to show that animal suffering and death are to be expected in theistic universes. In the first section, I discuss evidential arguments for naturalism from animal suffering. Next, I provide an overview of Aquinas’ arguments, particularly in Book II of the Summa Contra Gentiles. After this, I discuss the implications these arguments have for theistic universes. Finally, I conclude that these arguments refute evidential arguments for naturalism from animal suffering and also provide evidence that favors theism. (shrink)
If asked to define ‘omnipotence,’ the man on the street would probably say that it’s the ability to do anything. That’s about it, he’d think; nothing more needs be said. Philosophers are never so easily satisfied. They take it as matter of professional duty to find serious problems in important concepts, and to suggest that the concept be rejected or that solutions are at hand. This paper falls into the latter camp. Beginning with a relatively simple definition of ‘omnipotence,’ increasingly (...) complex definitions are proposed, problems are found with them, and newer, refined definitions are offered. In all, seven unsatisfactory definitions are examined before an adequate one is arrived at. Both traditional and new problems are addressed, and novel solutions are advanced. The definition argued to be adequate is itself novel, but also very much in keeping with our pre-reflective understanding of omnipotence. On the basis of the definition it’s concluded not only that an adequate definition of ‘omnipotence’ is possible, but that various problems alleged to attend attributing the notion to God can also be solved. (shrink)
In the elaboration of his soul-making theodicy, John Hick agrees with a controversial point made by compatibilists Antony Flew and John Mackie against the free will defense. Namely, Hick grants that God could have created humans such that they would be free to sin but would, in fact, never do so. In this paper, I identify three previously unrecognized problems that arise from his initial concession to, and ultimate rejection of, compatibilism. The first problem stems from the fact that in (...) two important texts, Hick rejects compatibilism for different and seemingly contradictory reasons. His various explanations of soul-making theodicy’s relationship to compatibilism are therefore in conflict. The second problem is closely related to the first. It turns out that when Hick’s concession to compatibilism is closely examined, soul-making theodicy appears unable to explain the existence of moral evil. The final problem consists in understanding why Hick would have made any concessions to compatibilism in the first place given that he ultimately opts for incompatibilist free will. After identifying these three problems, I develop a distinctive way in which to interpret Hick’s soul-making theodicy that solves the first two. This distinctive interpretation, moreover, has the added benefit of solving another, well-recognized problem that has long plagued Hick’s exposition: the problem of the hypnotist metaphor. Finally, I address the third problem by suggesting a rationale for Hick’s initial concession to the compatibilists. (shrink)
Even philosophers of religion working on the problem of non-human animal suffering have ignored the suffering of creatures like insects. Sensible as this seems, it’s mistaken. I am not sure whether creatures like these can suffer, but it is plausible, on both commonsensical and scientific and philosophical grounds, that many of them can. If they do, their suffering makes the problem of evil much worse: their vast numbers mean the amount of evil in the world will almost certainly be increased (...) by many, many orders of magnitude, the fact that disproportionately many of them live lives which are nasty, brutish, and short means that the proportion of good to evil in the world will be drastically worsened, and their relative lack of cognitive sophistication means that many theodicies, including many specifically designed to address animal suffering, would apply to their suffering only with much greater difficulty, if at all. Philosophers of religion should therefore more seriously investigate whether these beings can suffer and what, if anything, could justify God in allowing as much. (shrink)
The problem of evil is widely recognised to be the most serious challenge to the reasonableness of believing this world to be God’s creation. In this paper, I offer a novel way of responding. I argue that given a certain sort of divine command metaethics our moral intuitions and beliefs about what moral goodness substantially involves cannot reasonably be expected to provide reliable insight into what God’s moral goodness substantially involves. As such, even if it is unreasonable to believe this (...) universe to be the creation of an intuitively morally good, omnipotent, omniscient being, this does not entail that it is unreasonable to suppose it to be the creation of God. (shrink)
This article deals with modus vivendi, toleration and power. On the face of it toleration and modus vivendi are in tension with each other, because of the power condition on toleration: that an agent is tolerant only if they have the power to engage in an alternative, non- or intolerant form of behaviour, and this seems to be absent in modus vivendi. The article argues that the scope of the power condition is unclear, but might be thought much more extensive (...) than usually supposed. This becomes clear when the agent’s thoughts are subjected to a counterfactual test, concerning what would occur in their ideal world. However it is in the nature of ideals that they cannot usually be subject to a counterfactual variation here, since they determine the ideal world’s content. The article concludes that only a commitment to the other party’s freedom for its own sake proves robust in the face of counterfactual idealisation, but that it is questionable whether the dispositions that characterise toleration should be subject to so demanding a test. (shrink)
Theism and its cousins, atheism and agnosticism, are seldom taken to task for logical-epistemological incoherence. This paper provides a condensed proof that not only theism, but atheism and agnosticism as well, are all of them conceptually self-undermining, and for the same reason: All attempt to make use of the concept of “transcendent reality,” which here is shown not only to lack meaning, but to preclude the very possibility of meaning. In doing this, the incoherence of theism, atheism, and agnosticism is (...) secondary to the more general incoherence of any attempts to refer to so-called “transcendent realities.” -/- A recognition of the conceptually fundamental incoherence of theism, atheism, and agnosticism compels our rational assent to a position the author names “paratheism.”. (shrink)
I introduce a distinction between global and local versions of atheism and theism, where global ones are about all notions of God and local ones are about specific notions. Current expressions of atheism are ambiguous between the two. I argue that global atheism is difficult to enunciate and even more difficult to defend, so much so that global atheism is not yet justified. Until it is, atheists should be local atheists.
The problem of evil is not only a logical problem about God's goodness but also an existential problem about the sense of God's presence, which the Biblical book of Job conceives as a problem of aesthetic experience. Thus, just as theism can be grounded in religious experience, atheism can be grounded in experience of evil. This phenomenon is illustrated by two contrasting literary descriptions of aesthetic experience by Jean-Paul Sartre and Annie Dillard. I illuminate both of these literary texts with (...) a discussion of the 18th Century philosopher Lord Shaftesbury's concept of ‘enthusiasm’. (shrink)
Otte :165–177, 2009) and Pruss :400–415, 2012) have produced counterexamples to Plantinga’s famous free will defence against the logical version of the problem of evil. The target of this criticism is the possibility of universal transworld depravity, which is crucial to Plantinga’s defence. In this paper, we argue that there is a simpler and more plausible free will defence that does not require the possibility of universal transworld depravity or the truth of counterfactuals of creaturely freedom. We assume only that (...) libertarianism is possibly true and that God’s existence is consistent with the existence of free agents who never go wrong. We conclude the paper by explaining how our defence may be able to succeed without assuming, in a way that is consistent with compatibilism. (shrink)
This paper argues against the sufficiency of Alvin Plantinga’s free will defense, as presented in God, freedom, and evil as a response to the logical problem of evil. I begin by introducing the fundamental issues present in the problem of evil and proceed to present Plantinga’s response. Next, I argue that, despite the argument’s wide acceptance in the field, a central notion to the defense, transworld depravity, is internally inconsistent and that attempts to resolve the problem would result in an (...) abandonment of the original terms of the discussion. Finally, I consider some potential alternatives for a free will defense beyond the one presented by Plantinga and conclude that the logical problem of evil may have more worth as a philosophical topic than has been thought in recent years. (shrink)
In seeking to undermine Mackie’s logical argument from evil, Plantinga assumes that Mackie’s argument regards it as a necessary truth that a wholly good God would eliminate all evil that he could eliminate. I argue that this is an interpretative mistake, and that Mackie is merely assuming that the theist believes that God’s goodness entails that God would eliminate all evil that he could eliminate. Once the difference between these two assumptions, and the implausibility of Plantinga’s assumption, are brought out, (...) Plantinga’s celebrated critique of Mackie’s argument can be seen to be far less compelling than is often assumed to be the case. (shrink)
Some theodicists, skeptical theists, and friendly atheists agree that God-justifying reasons for permitting evils would have to have an instrumental structure: that is, the evils would have to be necessary to secure a great enough good or necessary to prevent some equally bad or worse evil. D.Z. Phillips contends that instrumental reasons could never justify anyone for causing or permitting horrendous evils and concludes that the God of Restricted Standard Theism does not exist—indeed, is a conceptual mistake. After considering Phillips’ (...) and other objections in the neighborhood, I argue that the Expanded Theism of Christian theology does forward a God who ‘digs in’ and eternally answers for horrors. (shrink)
Christian tradition speaks mainly of two possible post‐mortem human destinies. It holds that those human beings who, in their earthly lives, acted according to God’s will and accepted God’s love will be reconciled to Him in heaven; whereas those who have acted against God’s will and refused His love will be consigned to the everlasting torments of hell. The notion that hell is everlasting and also a place of unending suffering inevitably gives rise to the following question for theists: how (...) could an omnipotent, all‐good and all‐loving God allow anyone to suffer the torments of hell for eternity? There have been several attempts to shore up the doctrine of hell in the face of this problem. Universalists, in particular, try to evade the problem by claiming that a doctrine of hell is not in fact taught in the scriptures , and that Christians are therefore able to affirm that all human beings will be saved in the end. The paper begins with an explanation of the doctrine of hell and an identification of the main problems and criticisms against it. This will assist us in understanding the increasing popularity of universalism and moreover, on what grounds it is challenged. (shrink)
It is widely agreed that the ‘Logical’ Argument from Evil (LAFE) is bankrupt. We aim to rehabilitate the LAFE, in the form of what we call the Normatively Relativised Logical Argument from Evil (NRLAFE). There are many different versions of a NRLAFE. We aim to show that one version, what we call the ‘right relationship’ NRLAFE, poses a significant threat to personal-omniGod-theism—understood as requiring the belief that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good person who has created our world—because it (...) appeals to value commitments theists themselves are likely to endorse. The ultimate success of this NRLAFE will rest on developing a theological ethics of right relationship that rejects as morally flawed the exercise of omnipotence first to sustain horrors and then to redeem them. Yet a vindicated NRLAFE of this sort need not require atheism, but only rejection of the standard conception of God as a personal omniGod. (shrink)
Abstract. Since Darwin, scholars have contemplated what our growing understanding of natural selection, combined with the fact that great suffering occurs, allows us to infer about the possibility that a benevolent God created the universe. Building on this long line of thought, I develop a model that illustrates how undesirable characteristics of the world (stylized “evils”) can influence long-run outcomes. More specifically, the model considers an evolutionary process in which each generation faces a risk from a “natural evil” (e.g., predation, (...) disease, or a natural disaster) subsequent to a basic resource allocation game. This allows both resource allocation and the natural evil to influence the number of surviving offspring. As the model shows, when the risk from the natural evil can be mitigated through the benevolent behavior of neighbors, the population may have increasing benevolence as a result of (1) greater risk from the natural evil and (2) a greater degree to which selfish individuals transfer resources to themselves in the resource allocation game. The main implication is that a world with evolutionary processes (in contrast to a world of static design) can allow two factors that have traditionally been considered “evils”—namely, the indiscriminate cruelty of the natural world and the capacity for humans to harm each other—to promote desirable long-run outcomes. (shrink)
I formulate and defend a version of the many universes (or multiverse) reply to the atheistic argument from evil. Specifically, I argue that (i) if we know that any argument from evil (be it a logical or evidential argument) is sound, then we know that God would be (or at least probably would be) unjustified in actualizing our universe. I then argue that (ii) there might be a multiverse and (iii) if so, then we do not know that God would (...) be (or at least probably would be) unjustified in actualizing our universe. It follows that we cannot know that the atheistic argument from evil is sound, in which case we cannot be certain that the argument succeeds, and so it is rational to refuse to reject theism because of such arguments. (shrink)
In this paper I attempt to capture the essence of Nelson Pike’s contribution to the philosophy of religion. My summary of his insights will revolve around three general topics: omniscience (and in particular its relation to human freedom), omnipotence (and in particular its relation to the existence of human suffering), and mysticism (with a focus on the question of whether and in what sense mystic visions can be sources of knowledge). Although the details vary in interesting ways, his work on (...) these topics largely consists of recognizing an important challenge to the viability of the relevant doctrine or framework, sharpening that challenge by presenting it in a more forceful way, and then offering and assessing potential responses. Pike’s writings are characterized by exemplary rigor and relentless clarity, and together they constitute a rich (and under-appreciated) source of insight. (shrink)
Divine omnipotence entails that God can choose to do evil by taking up a human nature. In showing others by way of example how temptations are to be overcome, His exposure to evil desires in such circumstances is consistent with moral perfection. The view that 'God has the greatest power and is morally perfect simpliciter', is religiously more adequate than 'God has great power and is essentially morally perfect'. The essentiality of other divine attributes to God is discussed, and rebuttals (...) to Anselmian arguments are offered. (shrink)
In a previous issue of this journal Michael Veber argued that God could not answer certain prayers because doing so would be immoral. In this article I attempt to demonstrate that Veber’s argument is simply the logical problem of evil applied to a possible world. Because of this, his argument is susceptible to a Plantinga-style defense.
I examine different strategies involved in stating anti-theistic arguments from natural evil, and consider some theistic replies. There are, traditionally, two main types of arguments from natural evil: those that purport to deduce a contradiction between the existence of natural evil and the existence of God, and those that claim that the existence of certain types or quantities of natural evil significantly lowers the probability that theism is true. After considering peripheral replies, I state four prominent theistic rebutting strategies: skeptical (...) theism; Richard Swinburne's view that moral knowledge entails natural evil; the soul-making theodicy; and the natural law theodicy. (shrink)
If God is morally perfect then He must perform the morally best actions, but creating humans is not the morally best action. If this line of reasoning can be maintained then the mere fact that humans exist contradicts the claim that God exists. This is the ‘anthropic argument’. The anthropic argument, is related to, but distinct from, the traditional argument from evil. The anthropic argument forces us to consider the ‘creation question’: why did God not create other gods rather than (...) humans? That is, if God is omniscient, omnipotent, and morally perfect then why didn’t He create a world populated exclusively by beings that are perfect in the same way that He is—ontological equivalents— rather than choosing to create humans with finite natures and all the suffering that this entails? (shrink)
God is traditionally understood to be a perfect being who is the creator and sustainer of all that is. God's creative and sustaining activity is often thought to involve choosing a possible world for actualization. It is generally said that either there is (a) exactly one best of all possible worlds, or there are (b) infinitely many increasingly better worlds, or else there are (c) infinitely many unsurpassable worlds within God's power to actualize. On each view, critics have offered arguments (...) for atheism that turn on God's choice of a world. In what follows, I first discuss some background issues, and I then survey the contemporary literature on these arguments. (shrink)
Plantinga grants that there are possible worlds with freedom and no moral evil, but he argues that it is possible that although God is omnipotent, it is not within God’s power to actualize a world containing freedom and no moral evil. Plantinga believes that the atheologian assumes that it is necessary that it is within an omnipotent God’s power to actualize these better worlds, but in fact, Plantinga argues, this is demonstrably not the case. Since so many philosophers have regarded (...) Plantinga’s Free Will Defense to be a definitive solution to the logical problem of evil, the focus of the debate of the problem of evil has changed from the logical problem of evil to the evidential problem of evil. But we believe that the atheist tossed in the towel too early, and the theist celebrated victory too early. We will argue that Plantinga’s argument does not succeed. Mackie, incidentally, thought the same. He wrote “But how could there be logically contingent states of affairs, prior to the creation and existence of any created beings with free will, which an omnipotent god would have to accept and put up with? This suggestion is simply incoherent.” In this essay we argue that Plantinga fails to demonstrate that it is possible that God is omnipotent, and it is not within God’s power to actualize a world containing freedom but lacking moral evil. Thus Plantinga does not refute Mackie’s response to the Free Will Defense, and the point of Mackie’s question “Why could God not have made men such that they always freely choose the good?” still stands unrefuted. (shrink)
i l l ustrat es t he di ffi cul t y of providing a purely physical characterisation of phenomenal experi ence wi t ha vi vi d exampl e about a bat ’ s sensory apparatus. Whi l e a number of obj ect i ons have al ready been made to Nagel.
Alvin Plantinga, in the ninth chapter ofThe Nature of Necessity, sets out a defence of the Free Will Defence (FWD)2. In what follows, I shall set out, to begin with, a statement of the main line of his argument3. I shall, then, set out a number of minor criticisms of the ninth chapter. Finally, I shall set out a criticism of Plantinga’s argument.
First, I consider J.L. Mackie's deductive argument from evil, noting that required modifications to his premises, especially those dealing with what it is to be a good person and omnipotence, do not entail that God would be required to eliminate evil completely. Hence, no contradiction exists between God's existence, possession of certain properties, and the existence of evil. Second I evaluate McCloskey's arguments against reasons for evil often suggested by the theist: that evil is a means to achieving the good, (...) that evil is a by-product of securing the good, and that certain goods are logically dependent on the existence of certain evils. I argue that in none of these objections is McCloskey successful. (shrink)
Among the central theses defended in this paper are the following. First, the logical incompatibility version of the argument from evil is not one of the crucial versions, and Plantinga, in fostering the illusion that it is, seriously misrepresents claims advanced by other philosophers. Secondly, Plantinga’s arguments against the thesis that the existence of any evil at all is logically incompatible with God’s existence. Thirdly, Plantinga’s attempt to demonstrate that the existence of a certain amount of evil in the world (...) does not render improbable the existence of God involves both a false claim and a fallacious inference. (shrink)